Tag Archives: lessons

Universal Lessons from an International MBA Internship

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Capturing one of my international career insights posts below. For those of you interested in a career in international business or earning an International MBA, I hope that these insights are helpful!


My International MBA (IMBA) program at the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business has been an exciting opportunity for me to pause, reflect, refine, and prepare to re-enter the workforce with a global perspective of business, cross-cultural and inclusive managerial skills, and enhanced technical skills in business analytics and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt process improvement.

Half way through my IMBA program, I embarked on an internship journey with Michelin’s Global Leadership Program. The internship provided me with an incredible opportunity to engage in challenging projects in supply chain management and human resources, to gain broad exposure to the business and senior leaders, and to give back to the community. I couldn’t have asked for a more empowering or exciting internship.

Image Source: BSN International

Image Source: BSN International

Throughout my internship, I learned some universal lessons that I will carry with me throughout my career and wanted to pass along to others working on their MBA or interested in getting an MBA.

  1. Be humble. Humility is one of the most impactful, yet often forgotten about, leadership qualities. So often getting an MBA and the interviewing process lead people to brag and have a “better than” attitude, rather than focusing on what they can do for others and what teams can achieve together. When we remember that we are all people, we become much easier to work with and work for as managers.
  2. Manage your 3P’s – Purpose, People, and Projects. I “coined” these 3P’s to help me juggle priorities throughout the summer. First, focusing on purpose has reminded me to take a step back and remember why I am here and what my vision is for the world. Then, focusing on people has reinforced the importance of family, friends, and co-workers in my daily decisions and actions. People are what make the world go ‘round. They bring joy to our days, impact our lives, challenge us to improve, and influence our future as our advocates. Grounded by my first priorities of purpose and people, I am able to strategize, innovate, manage, and execute my projects well.
  3. Ask questions. As my dad always reminds me, when you ask for something, the worst answer you will get is “no.” So, why not ask questions? My curious and inquisitive nature has enabled me to learn from more people than ever expected and has helped me be resourceful and efficient this summer.
  4. Be opportunistic. Related to asking questions, it is important to seek out opportunities and voice your ideas whenever possible. Seeking opportunities, finding connections, and utilizing strengths and resources of a team has enabled me to develop an inaugural sustainability collaboration with Michelin, the University of South Carolina, and Clemson University.
  5. Don’t be afraid to take the backroads. This is a literal and metaphorical lesson. The backroads may take longer when we are traveling, but they often help us avoid traffic and are more predictable for transit timing. They also help us discover and appreciate new areas that we may have not otherwise experienced by taking the direct route. This also applies to the workplace, where the direct route may seem the most obvious to complete a project, but the backroads may lead us to more innovative thinking, new connections, and new opportunities. Something to consider as we are working on project management in our MBAs and beyond.

As always, this is an open dialogue. I would be grateful to hear from those of you who have earned (or are pursuing) your MBA and have lessons to share with the international community.

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Enlightenment from Living in Paris

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Approaching my first two weeks abroad, I already feel that I have had substantial time to reflect on my adventure in Paris. As expected, I have learned a great deal about the French language and culture while in class, living with my host family, visiting tourist sites, and exploring the city. More significantly, though, I have learned about myself and how I can apply my Parisian mindset to my daily life. Below I have captured some of the key lessons that have enlightened me while living abroad in Paris.

  • Eat to enjoy, not to indulge. Many Parisians eat bread and cheese at every meal, and chocolates or pastries after every lunch and dinner. Most of our waistlines are saying “no fair! How is that possible?” This seems contrary to all diet rules we have heard. I eat sweets almost every day now, including crepes with Nutella, creme brulee filled chocolate, coconut cookies, and chocolate waffles. One significant observation is that the portions are a quarter of the size of those in the United States. The smaller portions are encouraging me to enjoy each morsel, rather than feel full after eating sweets. My host sister told me that the average French woman’s BMI is 19, which is on the verge of being underweight.  This reminds me that portion control is key. Rather than restraining ourselves and then indulging too much, we should allow ourselves to enjoy small portions and satisfy our cravings.
  • Look to appreciate, not to just see. Notice differences between your new destination and your home, and learn from them! Tourists are often better at looking to appreciate than locals, especially because tourists experience a series of “firsts” when traveling: “first time seeing the Eiffel Tower,” “first time cruising on the Seine River,” etc. For those living abroad, it becomes easy to overlook our surroundings. We may walk past monuments without appreciating their history. Or we may drive home from work when the sun is setting without noticing the beautiful sky. With the opportunity to visit Paris a second time, and now fully engage with the city as a student, I am focused on appreciating all of my surroundings. I am taking several photos to capture memories. I am reading every sign and researching the significance of the buildings, monuments, and streets around me (centuries of history I should mention). This appreciative outlook is helping me become more understanding of the French culture. I also feel more grateful for the small things that bring me joy and empowered to face adversity in my daily life.
  • Listen to understand, not to judge. While traveling and especially while living abroad, we are constantly encountering new people, which means new perspectives. In various conversations, we will likely hear things that enlighten us, surprise us, or even enrage us when living abroad. I’m surprised by home many expats in Paris I’ve met who have said, “You’re American, why do you need to learn French?” Or “Why are you traveling in Europe? I thought Americans only stayed in the U.S.” I have chosen to listen to their questions respectfully and respond with my genuine interests and goals about learning French. I realized that according to this stereotype about Americans, I might be rare for having the travel bug, eager to learn new languages, and explore new cultures. Rather than judging their assumptions, I am working to be an American ambassador, demonstrating that many Americans do in fact enjoy learning about other languages and cultures.

On a separate but similar note, traveling often forces us to take the role of listener. Particularly when we are learning a new language,  we are still learning how to formulate words to contribute (confidently) to a conversation. This intensive listening is a good exercise particularly for those of us who often voice our opinions. Without having to (or being able to) speak, we become more understanding and less apt to make quick judgments in a conversation.

  • Speak to communicate, not to fight. The world is full of hateful words, and it is easy for us to engage in a fight. We can be more effective by having the objective to communicate and foster understanding in a conversation. This became more apparent to me when I visited the Place Republique in Paris, which has a monument with a memorial for the terrorist attacks in January and November 2015. The memorial speaks volumes about the pain the French felt when attacked over the past year. Hundreds of candles, photos, poems, and letters surround the monument, voicing the Parisian’s sadness, values, and dreams for the future. The memorial has a way of communicating powerful words that inspire the world, rather than engaging in a fight. If we truly want to end the war on terrorism, we need to disengage from the “dirty fight,” respect each other, and not fall victim to the endless fear that terrorists are hoping to provoke. I have faith that goodness will prevail, especially if we can effectively communicate with eachother throughout the world.
  • Live to experience, not to achieve. Every year, I have come closer to the realization that life is a series of experiences, and not necessarily achievement milestones. With the expectation that we will have a series of experiences (and not just accomplishments), we will no longer fear failure. One of my favorite quotes that I recently read was by Nikola Tesla: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” We will go through ups and downs, all of which combine to create the experience of life. My time in Paris has been a great example of this “experience” mindset. My first weekend in Paris I went the wrong way on the metro a few times, but it made me learn the “ins and outs” of the metro before beginning school. My phone died a few times and I didn’t have a charger, but it reminded me to pause and look with my own eyes rather than the eyes of my iPhone camera and social media pages. Despite all the changes and new beginnings in 2016, I have a sense of calm within me, solely because I am enjoying considering both positive and negative moments as life experiences.

I hope these inspirNational lessons I have learned while living in Paris can inspire you too. What other enlightenment have you experienced while living abroad?

Transferring Lessons from Studying Abroad to the Working World

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Interested in learning how studying abroad as an undergraduate student influences your experience in the business world? My latest post for One World 365 describes how I have transferred lessons from studying abroad to the working world.

Now that I have made the transition from an undergraduate student to a young professional, it is interesting to think about what lessons I have learned that can transfer into the working world. With a few years since I studied abroad for a summer in Spain and during spring break in Chile, I continue to see the value of studying abroad and appreciate the lessons learned that help me in the workforce. Above all, I have developed a more global, open-minded perspective, which has been beneficial for me in all aspects of life.

I toured William Cole Vineyard in Casablanca Valley, Chile, which brought my University of Michigan Ross School of Business growth strategy coursework to life while learning about the wine industry and South American business.

I toured William Cole Vineyard in Casablanca Valley, Chile, which brought my University of Michigan Ross School of Business growth strategy coursework to life while learning about the wine industry and South American business.

What lessons from studying abroad still hold strong for me as a young professional?

Be ready and willing to adapt.

While studying abroad, we are forced to adapt to a new culture, language, and customs. For example, thinking back to my experience in Salamanca, I wrote in my blog, Spanish Adventures Revealed, that “People are meant to adapt to change.  I know how fast people adapt depends on their personality.  I’ve realized that it took me only a couple days to adapt to the Spanish lifestyle.  I’ve gone 6 weeks without ketchup, peanut butter, and more, and I’ve gotten used to it!  I don’t miss the food from home too much or my typical customs.  The main thing I’ve missed is access to WiFi because it has been my only way to communicate with friends and family (I have a Vodafone, but I avoid using it).  It will be weird having to adjust again when I return to the U.S.” In the real world, we consistently face changes, both in the office and outside of work. We need to learn how to adjust and make the most of changes that come our way.

Don’t stereotype.

Stereotypes are inevitable, but don’t rely on them.  While studying in Spain, I lived with a housemate from the United Arab Emirates.  Her primary language was English (not Arabic!), although she spoke Russian, Uzbek (she was born in Uzbekistan), Spanish, French and more.  She was Atheist (not Muslim!).  She was surprised when I did not drink coffee (because some foreigners think of Americans as always having a Starbucks coffee in their hands).  She was also surprised when I told her that not all Americans eat hamburgers and French fries or large portions in general (she decided to not study abroad in the U.S. because she thought she would get fat).  We had preconceived notions about each other based on stereotypes, but we were clearly wrong and learned so much about each other’s cultures. As a young professional, it is also important to not stereotype others based on age, background, work experience, etc. People are so much more than the labels that society places on them. We all possess unique characteristics and diversity that cannot be described through stereotypes.

Balance your work life and personal life.

While studying abroad, I was amazed by the European mindset to prioritize appreciating each day and enjoying life, rather than always worrying about work and achievement.  I began to recalibrate my priorities, switching my focus from purely achievement, to balancing achievement with enjoyment. As a young professional, I have transferred this wisdom and constantly think about maintaining balance in order for me to be productive, happy, and healthy both in and outside of work.

Live in the present.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the future by constantly making plans and worrying about what will happen next or what consequences we will face as a result of our actions today.  Every day I have potential plans, but so many times when I think I’ll do something one day here, I end up saying “well, it depends what happens before.”  In my blog, Spanish Adventures Revealed, I wrote that “Enjoying each day for what it’s worth has been one of the most important things I learned while studying in Spain.  I think the siesta…time with family to eat lunch leisurely and relax…helped me appreciate each day more than I did in the U.S.  I bet that if the U.S. initiated a siesta, obesity, divorce, and heart attack rates would decrease tremendously.”

A few years later, I realize that a siesta is not realistic in the American business environment, but I do think it is important to live in the present. This is especially important with all the uncertainty and fast changes in the business world. Planning too far ahead can be a waste of time because there are so many variables that can completely change plans outside of our expectations. While I think that some futuristic thinking (such as visioning) is a wonderful part of business or life in general, I also think it is important to make the most of each day and take baby steps rather than overly focusing on big leaps into the future.

Conclusion

I will always remember my study abroad experiences fondly and am grateful for the lessons they have taught me and how they have prepared me for the workforce. I hope to continue to develop a global perspective by traveling, and reflecting on my daily experiences in my blog, inspirNational, which provides international inspiration for our everyday lives.

Read the original post,  Transferring Lessons from Studying Abroad to the Working World on One World 365.

Tree Wisdom

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As falls begins and the leaves change color, I can’t help but notice how beautiful trees are what benefits they provide us throughout the world.

Melrose Apple Tree at Eddy's Fruit Farm in Cleveland, Ohio

Melrose Apple Tree at Eddy’s Fruit Farm in Cleveland, Ohio

Over the weekend, I thought more about this while visiting my nieces and reading them two children’s book classics, The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, and The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. I gave my nieces these books because they are two of my favorites and they represent the importance of sustainability (leave it to their sustainability consultant aunt to do this :)).

What can we learn from trees?

The Lorax reminds us to appreciate the beauty of the world around us, especially trees and nature in general. It also teaches that we are responsible to take care of the environment to protect it for future generations.

The Giving Tree teaches us the importance of giving and appreciating gifts from others. The story demonstrates the endless gifts that trees provide: fruit to eat, branches to swing, shade to relax, wood to build furniture, and more. They ask for nothing in return, so it is importance for us to respect them.

I also came across the picture below from one of my high school classmates, which gives great advice from a tree.

  • Stand tall & proud: Be proud of who you are!
  • Go out on a limb: Take risks.
  • Remember your roots: Don’t forget your heritage; stay in touch with your family and friends who helped make you who you are today.
  • Drink plenty of water: Take care of yourself.
  • Enjoy the view: Appreciate your surroundings.
Photo Credit: Drew Edwards (my high school classmate, who is the Cofounder of Pangea Educational Development and currently lives in Uganda) and his friend Katie Ott

Photo Credit: Katie Ott and Drew Edwards (my high school classmate, who is the Cofounder of Pangea Educational Development and currently lives in Uganda)

As we go through life and travel the world, trees help us keep perspective and live with an inspirNational mindset. What wisdom have you learned from trees?